Nothing better demonstrates the silliness of left-right "culture war" than the bitterly illogical fight over human-caused climate change HCC. People who stake fierce positions, over a scientific matter, based on their pre-existing political loyalties, should be ashamed of themselves. In fact, there are legitimate questions that a genuine HCC-sceptic can ask! Questions that the scientific community ought to face and answer. But how to tell a true "skeptic" from a kneejerk "denialist"? SKEPTIC Magazine commissioned an article from me, dissecting this serious matter, which may affect humanity's destiny. Climate Skeptics vs. Climate Deniers now posted online. Come take the “Skeptic Test!”
The fun fellows at "GeeksOn" interviewed me for more than an hour (if anyone can take that much Brin!) about everything from the future to politics to SETI to all the myriad ways that science fiction has either gone astray or else propelled our thoughts into new frontiers. Provocative notions about everything from privacy to “Avatar.”
Before They Were Giants: First Works from Science Fiction Greats is a lovely collection of early stories by the likes of Greg Bear, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Larry Niven, William Gibson... and me. Way fun to glimpse the awkward first literary steps...
While in Rome, recently, we visited the Campo Di Fiorno plaza and paid respects to the statue of Giordano Bruno, who was burned on that spot for being - in effect - a sci fi author. A required pilgrimage, if you are ever nearby.
=== from the Transparency Front ===
Iceland aims to become a legal safe haven for journalists. This, apparently began after attempts to prevent the dissemination of news about the financial difficulties of a bank in Iceland, which culminated in its bankruptcy. And yes, of course, this correlates closely to what I predicted (in my novel EARTH (1989) would be THE core issue of the early 21st Century. Accountability is the core ingredient of a successful modern , enlightened and free society. It simply will not happen in a world of shadows. Where this news stands out is simple: individual human beings have no current standing under international law. They cannot sue or bring actions before world courts or institutions. Nations have an absolute monopoly on “rights.” Hence, the People are going to need a few nations who will stand up for them openly and radically. (The US cannot be expected to do this. It has other roles to play; it gets complicated.) Go Iceland.
=== Looking Upward ===
The Seti Institute folks have a habit of taking ideas straight out of science fiction, dusting them off, claiming to have thought them up... then returning to the habit of bad-mouthing science fiction. This is just another example.
”Aliens may be thinking machines, alien AI….rather than our biological counterparts, says Seth Shostak; proposing that SETI should devote some of its search to areas where matter and energy would be plentiful, such as near hot, young stars or even near the centers of galaxies.”
Not that the idea is bad, in itself. But, as the SETI Project completes its one scientific accomplishment... demonstrating the negative result of ZERO garish, friendly, blaring omnidirectional Tutorial Beacons... they are clearly looking for places to instead eavesdrop on advanced cultures. A worthy goal that I wholly support.
But see where I deal with the notion of alien machines in many ways! In the story “Lungfish...” and in an article dissecting 13 reasons that aliens might lurk and visit our internet, without saying hello!
=== More Science ===
The Age of Amateurs proven... as a fellow in Japan catches something smacking into Jupiter.
A new cosmology successfully (?) explains the accelerating expansion of the universe without dark energy; but only if the universe has no beginning and no end.
A gallery of 30 laboratories where students can learn to implode buildings, analyze car crashes, take 3D images of molecules, clone animals, analyze bomb debris, design robots, rockets, or space habitats. Or go into the field to dive with jellyfish, study extremophiles in caves, track hurricanes or volcanoes, climb trees in the Amazon, or drill cores in Antarctica.
A graphical explanation of the movie Inception.
Ray Kurzweil claims we'll be able to reverse engineer the human brain within a decade. Others suggest that he does not understand the brain.
Ah boys will be boys.
Truly amazing. The radioactive decay of some elements sitting quietly in laboratories on Earth seemed to be influenced by activities inside the sun, 93 million miles away. Radioactivity rates are (it seems) affected by what might be neutrinos spun off by variations in nuclear reactions in the sun’s core.
Futurama Writer Created And Proved A Brand New Math Theorem Just For an Episode.
Did the Copenhagen Suborbitals “Tycho” rocket go off?
A classic russian sci fi film. Well a lot of it seems to be a biopic about Tsiolkovsky (look him up!) You can follow a lot without understanding a word.
Stanford University engineers have figured out that by coating a piece of semiconducting material with a thin layer of the metal cesium, it made the material able to use both light and heat to generate electricity, increasing cell efficiency.
=== From the Kurzweil collection ===
Called “photon enhanced thermionic emission,” or PETE, the process promises to surpass the efficiency of existing photovoltaic and thermal conversion technologies.
Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003, according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt — about five exabytes of data. He cautioned that just because companies like his can do all sorts of things with this information, the more pressing question now is if they should. Schmidt noted that while technology is neutral, he doesn’t believe people are ready for what’s coming. “I spend most of my time assuming the world is not ready for the technology revolution that will be happening to them soon,” Schmidt said.
Harvard University researchers have uncovered a mechanism through which caloric restriction and exercise delay some of the debilitating effects of aging by rejuvenating the connections between nerves and the muscles that they control. -- Ah but it is always about mice and flies and such. I have explained before why these effects are unlikely to apply to humans! In fact, Ray Kurzweil’s wishful thinking notwithstanding, we have probably already flicked all the switches that caloric restriction sets off, in mice and flies and such.
A stretchy new fabric made by linking together fibronectin – the proteins found in muscle tissue — could provide a scaffold for growing new organs. It could also be used as a coating for bandages to help wounds heal quickly and with less scarring.
Iris scanning technology may create what it calls “the most secure city in the world.” In a partnership with Leon — one of the largest cities in Mexico, with a population of more than a million — GRI will fill the city with eye-scanners. That will help law enforcement revolutionize the way we live — not to mention marketers. I’m skeptical.
More items: unlinked.
Walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits, combat declines in brain function associated with aging, and increase performance on cognitive tasks, researchers have found.
=== A return to manufacturing? ===
Americans are 4% of the world's population and half of its military spending, and DARPA alone has a research budget of $3.2 billion. Now DARPA is pushing “rapid prototyping” to a whole new level. Its iFAB Program aims to develop a "foundry-style manufacturing capability." By which they mean microchip foundries - the generic, build-any-chip-for-any-designer factories that churn out microchips for every application you can imagine. This will lead to open source construction of the Army’s next-generation armored combat vehicle!
If this sounds at all familiar, it's because companies like Local Motors are already trying to make this happen for everyday vehicles - custom design and custom manufacturing all made possible through what used to be called rapid prototyping and is now just making stuff in a big hurry.
The difference is that DARPA doesn't want to end up with just a bunch of kit cars - or in this case, kit tanks. DARPA wants to literally reinvent manufacturing - not just so they can build new vehicles more easily, but because they have a not-so-secret ambition to revive America's manufacturing base.
Not everyone agrees that this is kind of manufacturing is a realistic goal - DARPA has a history of bringing on science fiction authors and futurists to help it brainstorm new ideas, and it's possible they were a little too high on a particular article from Wired when they wrote this document. But that's the point of DARPA - they fund things that no one else would, and eventually, that technology trickles down to the civilian sector.
And now the kicker... I am scripting a comic book (!) right now, about the notion of a rebirth of American manufacturing! More about that soon.
=== AND FINALLY ===
How many definitions of science fiction are there?
"Attempting to define science fiction is an undertaking almost as difficult, though not so popular, as trying to define pornography... In both pornography and SF, the problem lies in knowing exactly where to draw the line." — Arthur C. Clarke,
"Many people have tried to define science fiction. I like to call it the literature of exploration and change. While other genres obsess upon so-called eternal verities, SF deals with the possibility that our children may have different problems. They may, indeed, be different than we have been." — David Brin, Through Stranger Eyes
(Buy a copy today! ;-)